Do we instinctively know how to praise? Is the language of Christian praise and worship something that comes naturally or do we need to learn it?
Some of us, at least, find praise and worship difficult. We don't necessarily know what to say and perhaps don't really know what we mean when we say "praise God". Given that praise and worship has always been part of the life of God's people, we thankfully have many experiences and much teaching to draw on. This post explores learning the language and ideas of praise from Scripture.
In 1 Chronicles 29, David "praised God in the presence of the people" (29:10). So, what did he say? Essentially, David runs off a list of God's attributes. He acknowledges that everything is God's and lists qualities he associates with God such as greatness, power, glory, majesty, splendour, the source of wealth and honour, etc. (29:10-12). David's praise was like a description of God's character, attributes and abilities.
In Nehemiah 9, the people stand to praise God and confess their sins. Their praise, similarly to David's, speaks about God's character, who He is and what He does. God is acknowledged as creator (9:6-7), the one who chose Abram and made a covenant with him (9:7-8). God has kept His promises, freed His people, done miraculous things, given a covenant at Sinai - all these things form part of their praise.
"Praise His name", or "blessed be Your name" are common themes in prayer passages, such as the Psalms. God's name is His character, His reputation, the picture that He has built up of Himself through what He has said and done. So, it would seem that praise and worship may simply be retelling what God has done and who we know Him to be. Praise rightly describes God and reminds us who we are dealing with.
We might use different "names" to help us to describe God and offer our praise and worship. For example, Lord, creator, redeemer, saviour, father, Sovereign Lord, my shepherd, our rock - these are all "names" found in the Bible to speak of God and there are many more, too.
How might this help us to praise and worship God in prayer? Maybe we could draw directly from Scripture, using other people's words and making them our own. Perhaps we could think of what we know God has done for us and the kind of God we know Him to be.
Are there any "names" you might consider using to praise God with? Do you have any favourites? Have you found any of your own creative ways of expressing your praise - maybe a name not found in Scripture?
Praise can also spill over beyond words. If we know God to be the creator, maybe we find ourselves drawn to attending closely to His creation. Perhaps taking careful photos to express nature's beauty or planning how our garden might look best could also be described as acts of praise.
When we think creatively about all the attributes and acts of God, we can find many ways to connect in praise & worship. From thanking God for our food or wage packet to retelling the story of what God has done for us in Christ - our prayers of praise can be wide and varied.
How do you like to praise God? Is all praise & worship prayer of some kind?
© Joe Lenton, July 2012